While at David Savage’s shop, Rowden, a couple years ago we assembled a bunch of dovetailed tool chests using hot hide glue. That’s not weird. What was weird was how some of the students applied the glue.
They brushed the glue on the interior surfaces, knocked the joints together and then brushed glue on the exterior surfaces of the joints.
That was weird to me.
I’ve been in shops all over the world – traditional and modern. And the only time I’ve seen hide glue applied on the outside of a joint is during hammer veneering.
It was a whirlwind two weeks in Devon, and I didn’t get to ask David about that process. But when I came back to the United States, I started fooling around with it myself. During the last couple years I’ve gone back and forth between the two methods both with hot hide glue and liquid hide glue.
In talking with David, he called it the “Juicy Lucy” school of gluing. Sometimes at Rowden, David said they also use the “Sahara”method. This is where you have been successful if a small bead of glue comes out bearing evidence that glue has been used in the assembly.
I’m not a glue scientist, and what I have been doing is not a properly controlled experiment. It’s building furniture. What I have observed is that applying hide glue to the outside surfaces of a joint – especially the end grain – can make a good joint a wee bit better. It’s not a dramatic difference. But the end grain seems to soak up the adhesive and swell a tiny tiny bit.
But wait – doesn’t this affect finishing? Not with hide glue and traditional finishes. Hide glue is transparent to most finishes. So I plane off the exterior surfaces like I normally do (usually a swipe or two with a smoothing plane) and it’s done.
Should you change your gluing technique? Not if you are happy with your results. But if you are a curious person, give it a try and decide for yourself.
— Christopher Schwarz